Recently I did a re-rankling of prospects, and the major publications have also begun to update their lists, but there’s a quirk about lists this time of year – there’s both a lot of movement due to graduations from eligibility (Cavan Biggio will have done so by the end of the All Star Break, for example) but there’s also an influx of new talent. Teams just drafted (at least) 40 new players, most of whom will never be ranked prospects but after the top three or four you really don’t know who’s going to push there way onto the list, but they also signed a plethora (37 so far by the Blue Jays at last update) of international free agents, a few of whom will be instantly recognized as top 40 prospects, others who will eventually prove themselves worthy. On top of that are the new prospects that will inevitably arive via the trading that is about to ensue.
But right now we just don’t know. The J2 players won’t even play an official game until next summer, and while we can expect to see SS Rikelvin de Castro, Outfielders Robert Robertis and Penier Brito, and shortstop Estivan Machado get some buzz based on scouting and signing bonuses, it’s difficult to plug them into a list right now. Likewise, the first four or five players they drafted are certainly worthy of consideration, it’s all guesswork until we get a sample of how they play out in pro-ball and even then it’s really tentative. For example, if you were trying to rank Griffin Conine just based on 2018 (which is all you could do other than factor in the scouting that led to his being drafted) then you were probably short on him compared to what he’s shown in 2019. Point being, don’t put too much stock in the mid-season list because it’s mostly “these are the guys who are holding up well” and by November there will be not a few names pushed off by more highly regarded new talent.
It’s still very early to say much of anything about these teams except to note who’s having a hot start or who;s been assigned a newly acquired player, or had a promotion, or whatever. The DSL has been playing since early June so the samples are bigger, but the level of play is a lot harder to survey from this distance. One thing you can look at is the BB/K ratio for either a hitter or a pitcher. The best eye, by that measure, so far is diminutive (5’9″) 2B Adrian Montero (12/4 ratio), he also .831 OPS and 10 SB. Sixteen year old CF Gabriel Martinez also has walked more than he’s struck out. He leads the team with 14 BB and 32 TB. The best performing pitchers on the DSL team are both relievers with more than one strikeout per inning pitched and low walk numbers. I’ve mentioned Edgar Castro before and there’s also Winder Garcia, both RH Venezuelans.
In the GCL only one hitter has as many as 10 games played yet but as it happens, it’s a guy I’d hoped to have a chance to highlight. Last year in the DSL, Jhon Solarte hit .295, He was second on the team in XBH and led the squad with 27 SB in 37 tries. Out of the gate in the GCL his OPS is 1.001. I don’t have a ton of info on him but for me he’s on the watch list. There’s really so very little data on the pitchers I won’t bother except to note in the very early going there’s already been one or more rehab appearances by Ryan Borucki, Eric Pardinho, Jason Maese, Maverk Buffo, Julian Merryweather and three others. The Bluefield team is closing in on three weeks into their season. The hitter who’s results will catch your eye early is 1b Spencer Horwitz, a 24th round choice this year, who’s hitting .369 so far. RHP Jared DiCesare, 17th round, has given up only one run over 12 IP in his first three appearances, striking out 12 without issuing a walk.
The VanCans have been dreadful offensively to start the year, averaging less than 3 runs per game over their first 22, then Saturday night they scored 16! Newly signed catcher (2019 9th rounder) Phillip Clarke went 4/6 with a homer in just his second professional game. Still, a look over the offensive stat sheet will not be a pleasant experience. Nor is the pitching staff, so far, a source of great encouragement. Last year’s 34th round selection Grant Townsend still stands out from the pack with 28 K in his first 22.1 IP.
Griffin Conine can’t stop/won’t stop (does anyone still say that?). He just passed Jake Brodt for second place on the team in home runs – Brodt has played over twice as many games. But compare this though: in 33 games Conine has 50 strikeouts, in 37 games young catcher Gabe Moreno has . . . 15. You have to think Conine is going to need to address that as he moves up the chain. The pitching staff remains inconsistent, but Sean Wymer whom i discussed last week had another good outing He now has a 3.62 ERA over his last 8 starts. Cobi Johnson threw 7 shutout innings over two appearances this week so he may have some momentum.
There’s a case to be made that this is quietly one of the best teams in the minors. The D-Jays are an interesting but by no means overwhelming offensive squad carried mostly by catcher Alejandro Kirk and 3B Cullen Large, – and lately also OF Demi Orimoloye. Another hitter who deserves recognition is lefty hitting Cal Stevenson. Hidden by the results of his horrid first 10 games, in which he went 5 for 36, he continues to be a steady effective on base machine since with a .394 OPS in 62 games since. But the starting pitcher continues to be world-beaters. Particularly Joe Murray. In 11 outings in the FSL he now has a 1.55 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP while striking out 11.2 per nine IP. The six pitchers currently on this team, not counting rehabbing Ryan Borucki, who have started a game (collectively 62 outings) have a cumulative ERA of 2.58 – there are no weak links.
Going into the ASB, the Fisher Cats have been largely a pedestrian offensive squad. The two players at the top of the stat sheet (who are still here) CF Forrest Wall and 3B Nash Knight, basically leveraged very hot streaks that are now over. Catcher Riley Adams arrived hot, got very cold for a while, and seems to have found a middle ground between the two lately. But mostly it’s just a mediocre result so far. Which makes one tend to focus on the starting rotation where things are somewhat more interesting. Jays fans who watch the farm got to see Big Nate Pearson dominate for an inning in yesterday’s future game, and his work in AA is consistent with what you saw but we’re still waiting for the organization to ramp up his workload. Thanks in part to a trip to the DL to nurse a groin strain, he hasn’t pitched more than 2 innings in a game in a month. Another top prospect, Patrick Murphy, has now appeared three times since coming off the DL Collectively he gave up 2 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks over 8 IP while striking out 9. Be expecting to see them ramp him back up to his customary 5-plus IP per game workload after the break. Nothing is new with Yennsy Diaz’s maddening inconsistency. He through 6 shutout innings yesterday, he gave up 4 runs in a single IP in his last previous outing. His nickname should be Box o’ Chocolates. What is unusual is that Zach Logue seems to have lost his rhythm of late. In his last three turns he’s given up 17 ER in 15.2 IP.
The Bo Show is becoming the direct equivalent of last year’s Must-see Vladdy Watch. His season OPS is now up to .900, but in the 23 games since he came off the IL he’s slashing .361/.410/.588/.997 which . . . that seems good. Socrates Brito continues to provoke the question “Why can’t you do this in the majors?” and Billy McKinney hit a hot streak since his most recent demotion – but it’s only six games. The Bisons lone rep in the ASG is not, as one might suspect, Bo but rather LH reliever Kirby Snead. He seems to be better than just a guy who can get minor leaguers out, and he may well compete for major league work next spring. Speaking of relievers, and I’ve mentioned this guy before but it bears elaboration the longer this goes on, Zach Jackson seems to be re-establishing himself as a credible big league prospect. Jackson has always had good stuff with major questions about where it was going. For example, in 2018 in AA he had a 2.47 ERA and allowed a tidy 29 hits in 62 IP while striking out 75. Impressive, right? Except for the 51 walks that is. But someone has figured it out, apparently. In his last seven outings he walked no one in six of them, only one in the seventh. In his last 30.1 IP extending back to May 14, he’s allowed 14 hits and a mere 8 walks while striking out 30 – and allowing only 3 ER. If he can hold onto this he will definitely be a name you’ll hear a lot of next spring, if not before.